What is Kundalini Yoga?


You have a snake in your spine.

That might sound like something that should scare you, but really this should excite you. This “snake” has enormous potential to improve your mind, body, and soul. But where did this snake come from, and how can you unlock its potential?
To understand this “snake,” you’ll first have to understand Kundalini Yoga.


What Is Kundalini Yoga?

Kundalini Yoga is a form of yoga influenced by Bhakti, Raja, and Shakti yoga. Yogis who practice this form of yoga praise it for the speed at which it delivers powerful results for wellness and creative potential. The first mention of Kundalini Yoga is in the Upanishads, an ancient Sanskrit text written between 1,000 – 500 BCE. That makes Kundalini one of the oldest yoga practices still known today. For centuries teachers would pass lessons down to their students through oral instruction. These lessons were kept secret as Kundalini was considered too powerful to share with the public.
That changed when Yogi Bhajan immigrated to North America in the 60s, bringing his knowledge of Kundalini with him. In America, he discovered people trying to achieve a spiritual connection with God and their higher self through drug use. Bhajan realized he had all the tools necessary to help people achieve this desire, and decided to share his knowledge with the public.


The Snake in Your Spine

The word “kundalini” derives from a Sanskrit word meaning “coiled snake.” In Kundalini Yoga, it refers to the latent energy found at the base of the spine, coiled up and tense in your body. Through regular, guided practice of Kundalini Yoga students prepare their bodies and allow their kundalini energy to rise from their spine up to their heads. As the energy uncoils from the spine it aligns the 8 chakras in the body.
The rising of kundalini energy and alignment of the chakras is called Kundalini Awakening. When you experience a Kundalini Awakening you connect to a larger, god-like creative consciousness that lies dormant in everyone. Connecting to this consciousness brings balance to your mind, body, and soul. With this balance, you will be able to actualize your best self and experience your soul more deeply.


Meditation and Kundalini Yoga

Have you noticed a rise in meditation and mindfulness over the last few years? You can thank Kundalini Yoga for that. Kundalini Yoga is often called “the yoga of awareness” because of its focus on the energy of the mind as well as the body. Through breathing exercises, mantras, and the incorporation of meditation, students learn to accept their thoughts without judgment. By consistently practicing Kundalini Yoga, students slowly cleanse their minds and become more aware of their consciousness.
And scientific research backs this up. In its most immediate effect, practicing mindfulness can help you build skills to manage stress, increase self-awareness, and reduce negative emotions, amongst other things. Meditation has also been shown to positively affect everything from anxiety to high blood pressure. And I probably don’t need to explain that yoga is great for your physical health too (but it definitely is).


How To Do Kundalini Yoga

Kundalini Yoga focuses on breath, mudra (hand positioning), eye-focus, mantra, and bandhas (body locks). These different aspects are combined into Kriya or an action that works towards a specific outcome. Kriyas help to guide the practice and slowly release kundalini energy.
One of the first things you might hear about Kundalini Yoga is that it is one of the most dangerous forms of yoga practiced today. The danger is not so much physical as it is mental and spiritual. Kundalini Yoga holds enormous potential, and if improperly guided that potential can cause much more harm than good. If you are considering diving into Kundalini Yoga, it is generally best to find a class or teacher who can safely guide you through the practice and prepare your body to experience your kundalini energy.
Another aspect of Kundalini Yoga that distinguishes it from other forms of yoga is the practice of wearing white in classes. Yogi Bhajan believed that colors have an effect on consciousness, and adopted white as a progressive and spiritual color.
Does this mean you’ll be kicked out of class for wearing regular yoga pants, or that you need to buy a fancy white head covering? Not at all, and you shouldn’t be treated any differently for it. But to get the full benefits of the practice, and to really immerse yourself in the class, you might consider trying to transition your attire to white.


Common Kundalini Yoga Poses

Kriyas guide kundalini Yoga, and at the core of each Kriya is an Asana or a pose that you hold while practicing breathwork and chanting mantras. Below are several basic Kundalini asanas.


Cobra pose is an excellent chest opening asana that allows you to draw deep breaths into your chest. Start by lying on your belly, then move your hands to lie flat on the floor next to your shoulders. Slowly push your upper body up from the floor, pulling your shoulder blades together to fully open your chest.


Bow pose aims to stretch your muscles while also building up core and back muscles. Begin by lying flat on the floor. Breathe out and bring your feet as close to your hips as you can, then reach back and grab your ankles. Then breathe in, raising your feet and hands into the air above your body, lifting your upper body off the floor and creating a circle with your entire body.


Camel pose is another chest opening asana, but is slightly advanced and requires a certain level of flexibility to fully achieve. Begin by lying flat on the floor, then rising up so you are resting on your shins and knees. Place your hands on your lower back and pull your torso up so you are opening your chest. Exhale and push hips forward, slowly shifting your weight to your hands. Let your back bend and move your hands so you are gripping your ankles.


This pose is easily recognizable as the classic image of a yogi and it is common among a wide variety of practices. Begin by sitting on the floor with your legs in front of you. Bring your left foot to rest on your right thigh, and your right foot to rest on your left thigh. Set your palms on your knees, and use your breath to stretch your spine.


I hope that by now you realize that the “snake” in your spine is a force for good, and capable of bringing a lot of positivity into the world. And now that you know where it came from and everything it can do, you’re ready to embrace it into your life.

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